Biti, CCC legislators grill Minister over Pomona rot; ‘Do not defend thieves, Minister – did you also get something?’

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By Anna Chibamu

“Do not defend thieves, Minister,” one of them shouted. “You are a clean man; so do not defend this controversial unclean deal. Did you get anything out of it?”

CITIZENS Coalition for Change (CCC) legislators grilled Zanu PF cabinet Minister Amon Murwira in Parliament Wednesday over government interference in the running of local authorities, citing Harare’s controversial Pomona dumpsite deal.

Murwira was standing in for the Leader of Government business in Parliament.

Harare East MP and CCC deputy president Tendai Biti questioned the constitutional basis for Government’s intervention to force through the deal which is being opposed by the Harare City Council.

Government has insisted that there will be no going back on the US$344 million dollar waste-to-energy contract despite opposition outrage over its cost to Harare ratepayers.

The contract was awarded to a shadowy company based in Europe whose local representative is linked to the family of President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Said Biti “The Constitution of Zimbabwe is clear that Local Authorities are run by those that are elected by citizens to run these.

“Is there a change of policy or Constitution because we now see serious interference with the city council by central government with regards to the recently concluded and controversial Harare Pomona Dumpsite Agreement where the City of Harare is being levied the sum of US$22,000 per day for receiving its own garbage over a contract which many councillors are not in agreement with.

He added; “Can the minister clarify; why is the government not allowing the City of Harare to make its own decisions where the Minister of Local Government gives guarantees on a contract for Devolution Funds in the absence of a devolution framework?”

Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Prof. Amon Murwira

In response, minister Murwira said; “It is government’s policy that local authorities operate within the confines of the law.

“If there is anything contrary, then it has to be treated appropriately. On the Pomona (deal) we know that Harare has had problems over the years.

“Harare has failed to supply water to its residents. There is a lot of lagging behind in terms of service provision.”

The minister added that the Pomona dumpsite had been causing problems in the capital for years with council failing to deal with the challenge resulting in government being forced to intervene.

“The Local Authority is headed by the Ministry of Local government,” said minister Murwira.

“It is not an independent institution. Therefore, it (Pomona deal) is within the law. If there are specific complaints, they should be dealt with specifically.

“Like I said, the government has authority over local councils. To this end, we are aware that Cabinet approved and Council also approved the deal.”

The Minister continued; “Issues can always be raised but the Pomona deal has gone through all processes that are required.

“So, if we are intervening in the council, and we went on to approve this deal, we believe this deal can clean up this city because the city is dirty. We believe the rules were followed.”

Biti however, persisted noting that, “The Pomona deal has not been agreed to by the Council.

“The constitution is clear; on what basis is the Cabinet coming in to justify a deal that is costing rate payers US$22000 a day? Even Bill Gates does not earn that much a day.”

Other opposition legislators including Murisi Zwizwai, Charlton Hwende and Shakespeare Hamauswa weighed in challenging the Minister.

“Do not defend thieves, Minister,” one of them shouted. “You are a clean man; so do not defend this controversial unclean deal. Did you get anything out of it?”

Minister Murwira shot back, insisting that; “The process at Pomona was done legally to the best of our knowledge, all processes were followed.

“How can you (Opposition MPs) defend a dirty city, defend potholes, things that are done to clean our city. This was done on the national interest basis.”